With Prince George’s County being placed under the microscope after the Jack Johnson scandal, county officials sought to find a way to clean up county government. That effort led to the creation of the Accountability, Compliance Integrity (ACI) Advisory Board. At its first meeting, Jan. 29, it realized it had much work to do.

Sitting on the board, as chair, is former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke as chair, joined by retired Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge William Missouri as vice chair. Also on the committee are Patricia Adams, commissioner with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission; Linda Botts, a top aide to former County Executive Wayne Curry, and former Councilman Peter Shapiro, D.-Dist. 2.

The ACI Advisory Board will look into all areas of county government, reviewing oversight and looking at best practices from local, state and federal agencies. At the end of the process, it will provide recommendations to the county council and County Executive Baker.

That task is easier said than done. The scope of the problems facing the county is huge – possibly bigger than even some of the board members know, several of the members admitted. At one point during the meeting, Schmoke asked if it were just a pay-to-play issue, but the response he received let him now that fraud inside the county’s government may go beyond that.

“I think it’s a problem and it’s a big problem,” Shapiro replied. “I think our mandate is broader than that. I think that’s what’s in the news most. There’s lots and lots of data to support there’s a pay-to-play culture.”

Adams went even further than Shapiro saying she still needed to familiarize herself with how the different agencies within the county’s government conduct business. “I need to educate myself,” Adams said. “We need to meet the people who deal with ethics in the county council and the Office of Fraud and find out what their jobs are and what procedures are in place. I think that’s the first step and based on what we learn from that … we have to investigate where the problems are.”

The board’s challenges don’t fall with just the issues it’s facing either. It’s working from ground up with no real framework of how to do it or a real budget. The board is even having issues with scheduling, including getting all the members to agree to a date and securing a place to meet.

“I think it would help if we make this a priority,” Schmoke said. “We’ll try to be as flexible as possible, but if we can get a number of dates, but we can’t decide them all today.”

The ACI Board use provide links on the Prince George’s County government home page to inform the public about meeting times and topics. The board plans to allot time for public comment at the beginning of each meeting. No date has been set for the next meeting.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO